The Great Experimenters

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Plant breeders, Sempervivum breeders among them, are addicted, driven and enthusiastic. They spend years making crosses, hybridizing, raising, trialing and culling the outcomes of their breeding efforts.


Some of the most famous breeders of Sempervivum, or hens and chicks were Helen Payne, Ed Skrocki and David Ford. These three, and many others too, brought Sempervivum into new prominence as a garden plant.

Over the decades since their great promotional efforts, Sempervivum gradually fell out of favor; only recently in the past few years have they reached new gardeners, almost as if they’ve just been invented. New addicts have emerged, more obsessed with these old favorites than the plant breeders themselves.

There isn’t a lot of information about these great gardeners; I’ve been lucky enough to dig up a few files about their lives and in one case at least, their death.

There are also videos that give a whole new insight into the way that Ed Skrocki thought and some of his odd ways; packing up a hearse with his plants to sell in markets and to deliver to garden centers is one memorable thing that people always mention.

David Ford grew his collection on a rooftop, and when he died, as happens so many times with plant collections, his plants were scattered to the winds.

Helen Payne and Ed Skrocki were best known for their ability to maintain their avid interest throughout their lives, leaving behind a rich legacy of new Sempervivum cultivars.

See more memories about Ed Skrocki here.

Eager to grow your very own hybrid Sempervivum? It’s not hard, just be patient because it can take several years to see the changes as the plants reach maturity.

I use the winter sow method to quickly and easily propagate lots of these plants, using my own seed that I collect from the flower heads as the aging hens die off.

If you’re in Canada you can buy your Sempervivum and Jovibarba seed from Succulents Canada.

Drool over the gorgeous hens and chicks here;

Sempervivum Picture Gallery A-D

Sempervivum Picture Gallery E-L

Sempervivum Picture Gallery M-P

Sempervivum Picture Gallery R-Z